About the same time Publius Scipio was beset by a fear no less grave and a danger that was greater from a new enemy.
There was the young Masinissa, at that time an ally of the Carthaginians, a man whom friendship with the Romans later made famous and powerful.
With his Numidian cavalry he now encountered Publius Scipio on his advance, and also was continually at hand day and night,
ready [p. 469]
to attack, so that he not only captured soldiers1
who had wandered far from the camp in search of wood and fodder, but also rode up to the camp itself, and often dashing into the midst of the outposts threw everything into great confusion.
By night also there was often alarm at the gates and on the earthwork owing to a sudden attack, nor was any place or time free from fear and anxiety for the Romans, and they were confined within their earthwork, unable to obtain anything.
It was almost a regular blockade, and this would evidently be stricter if Indibilis, who was reported as approaching with seven thousand five hundred Suessetani, should join the Carthaginians.
Consequently Scipio, though a general marked by caution and foresight, being forced by his straits, adopted the rash plan of going by night to meet Indibilis and giving battle wherever he should encounter him.
Therefore, leaving a moderate garrison at the camp and putting his lieutenant, Tiberius Fonteius, in command of it, he set out at midnight, and on meeting the enemy engaged them.
It was a battle of columns rather than lines; yet, so far as could be in an engagement without order, the Roman had the advantage. But the Numidian cavalry, whose notice the general had thought he had escaped, by outflanking them inspired great alarm, and in addition, when they had entered a fresh battle with the Numidians, a third enemy also arrived, the Carthaginian generals, who from the rear overtook them when already engaged.
And the Romans found themselves between two battles, uncertain against which enemy and in which direction they should choose to break through in a mass.
As the general was fighting and exhorting, [p. 471]
and exposing himself where there was most to be2
done, his right side was pierced by a lance. And those of the enemy who in a wedge had made an attack upon the men pressing close about the general, on seeing the dying Scipio slipping from his horse, dashed everywhere along the line, wild with delight, shouting and announcing that the Roman commander had fallen.
The broadcasting of that announcement far and wide made the enemy as good as victors beyond a doubt and the Romans as good as vanquished. Flight directly from the battle-line began, once they had lost their general.
But while, so far as bursting through the Numidians and the light-armed auxiliaries as well was concerned, flight was not difficult, yet it was hardly possible for them to escape such numbers of horsemen and infantry who by their speed kept up with the horses.
And almost more were slain in flight than in battle, nor would anyone have survived but for the coming on of night, as the day was now rapidly drawing to a close.